Kalidasa

Kalidasa

Overview
Kālidāsa also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

: "servant of Kali
Kali
' , also known as ' , is the Hindu goddess associated with power, shakti. The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means "the black one". Since Shiva is called Kāla - the eternal time, Kālī, his consort, also means "Time" or "Death" . Hence, Kāli is...

") was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language. His floruit
Floruit
Floruit , abbreviated fl. , is a Latin verb meaning "flourished", denoting the period of time during which something was active...

cannot be dated with precision, but most likely falls within 4th Century AD.

His plays and poetry are primarily based on Hindu Puranas and philosophy
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

.

Nothing apart from his works is known with certainty about the life of Kālidāsa, such as his period or where he lived.
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Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Kālidāsa also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

: "servant of Kali
Kali
' , also known as ' , is the Hindu goddess associated with power, shakti. The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means "the black one". Since Shiva is called Kāla - the eternal time, Kālī, his consort, also means "Time" or "Death" . Hence, Kāli is...

") was a renowned Classical Sanskrit writer, widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in the Sanskrit language. His floruit
Floruit
Floruit , abbreviated fl. , is a Latin verb meaning "flourished", denoting the period of time during which something was active...

cannot be dated with precision, but most likely falls within 4th Century AD.

His plays and poetry are primarily based on Hindu Puranas and philosophy
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

.

Life


Nothing apart from his works is known with certainty about the life of Kālidāsa, such as his period or where he lived. Little is known about Kālidāsa's life. According to legend, the poet was known for his beauty which brought him to the attention of a princess (Vidyotma) who married him. However, as legend has it, Kālidāsa had grown up without much education, and the princess was ashamed of his ignorance and coarseness. A devoted worshipper of Kali
Kali
' , also known as ' , is the Hindu goddess associated with power, shakti. The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means "the black one". Since Shiva is called Kāla - the eternal time, Kālī, his consort, also means "Time" or "Death" . Hence, Kāli is...

 (by other accounts of Saraswati
Saraswati
In Hinduism Saraswati , is the goddess of knowledge, music, arts, science and technology. She is the consort of Brahma, also revered as His Shakti....

), Kālidāsa is said to have called upon his goddess for help when he was going to commit suicide in a well after he was humiliated by his wife, and was rewarded with a sudden and extraordinary gift of wit. He is then said to have become the most brilliant of the "nine gems" at the court of the king Vikramaditya
Vikramaditya
Vikramaditya was a legendary emperor of Ujjain, India, famed for his wisdom, valour and magnanimity. The title "Vikramaditya" was later assumed by many other kings in Indian history, notably the Gupta King Chandragupta II and Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya .The name King Vikramaditya is a...

 of Ujjain
Ujjain
Ujjain , is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River , today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division.In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini...

. Legend also has it that he was murdered by a courtesan in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 during the reign of Kumaradasa.

Date


A terminus ante quem is given by the Aihole
Aihole
Aihole is a temple complex in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, India. It is a very popular tourist spot in north Karnataka. It lies to the east of Pattadakal, along the Malaprabha River, while Badami is to the west of both....

 Prashasti of 634 AD, which has a reference to his skills; and a terminus post quem
Terminus post quem
Terminus post quem and terminus ante quem specify approximate dates for events...

 can be presumed from his play
Mālavikāgnimitra in as much as the hero, King Agnimitra
Agnimitra
Agnimitra was the second King of the Sunga Dynasty of northern India. He succeeded his father, Pusyamitra Sunga, in 149 BCE...

 of the Shunga
Sunga Empire
The Sunga Empire or Shunga Empire was a royal Indian dynasty from Magadha that controlled vast areas of the Indian Subcontinent from around 185 to 73 BCE. The dynasty was established by Pusyamitra Sunga, after the fall of the Maurya Empire...

 dynasty, assumed the throne of Magadha
Magadha
Magadha formed one of the sixteen Mahājanapadas or kingdoms in ancient India. The core of the kingdom was the area of Bihar south of the Ganga; its first capital was Rajagriha then Pataliputra...

 in 152 BC. The linguistic features of the Prakrit
Prakrit
Prakrit is the name for a group of Middle Indic, Indo-Aryan languages, derived from Old Indic dialects. The word itself has a flexible definition, being defined sometimes as, "original, natural, artless, normal, ordinary, usual", or "vernacular", in contrast to the literary and religious...

 dialects used by some of the minor characters in his plays have been adduced to suggest that he could not have lived before the 3rd century AD. There has been great ambiguity regarding the exact date of Kālidāsa but in 1986, Sanskrit scholar Ramchandra Tiwari of Bhopal claims to have conducted a thorough research on Kalidasa and after analysing 627 archaeological evidences which included 104 sculptures, 30 pictures and 493 scriptural words determined that Kalidasa lived in the period 370-450AD.

In his works, Kālidāsa did not mention any king as his patron, or any dynasty other than the Shunga
Sunga Empire
The Sunga Empire or Shunga Empire was a royal Indian dynasty from Magadha that controlled vast areas of the Indian Subcontinent from around 185 to 73 BCE. The dynasty was established by Pusyamitra Sunga, after the fall of the Maurya Empire...

 dynasty, but several historians have credited the traditional account of Kālidāsa as one of the "nine gems" at the court of a king named Vikramāditya
Vikramaditya
Vikramaditya was a legendary emperor of Ujjain, India, famed for his wisdom, valour and magnanimity. The title "Vikramaditya" was later assumed by many other kings in Indian history, notably the Gupta King Chandragupta II and Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya .The name King Vikramaditya is a...

. There were, however, several kings in ancient India by that name. One among them was the emperor Vikramaditya
Vikramaditya
Vikramaditya was a legendary emperor of Ujjain, India, famed for his wisdom, valour and magnanimity. The title "Vikramaditya" was later assumed by many other kings in Indian history, notably the Gupta King Chandragupta II and Samrat Hem Chandra Vikramaditya .The name King Vikramaditya is a...

 of Ujjain
Ujjain
Ujjain , is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River , today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division.In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini...

 who founded the Vikrama Samvat following his victory over the Saka
Saka
The Saka were a Scythian tribe or group of tribes....

s in 56 BCE. Scholars have noted other possible associations with the Gupta dynasty, which would put his date in the range of 300-470 AD:
  • His play about a couple in Vedic
    Vedic period
    The Vedic period was a period in history during which the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed. The time span of the period is uncertain. Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedas, was composed roughly between 1700–1100 BCE, also...

     Puranas, Pururavas
    Pururavas
    Pururavas was the first king of the Aila dynasty or the Somavamsha. According to the Vedas, he is a mythological entity associated with the Surya and Usha , and is believed to resided in the middle region of the cosmos. The Rig Veda states that he was a son of Ila and was a pious king...

     and Urvashi, being titled Vikramorvashīya
    Vikramorvasiyam
    Vikramōrvaśīyam is a Sanskrit play by medieval Indian poet Kalidasa who fluorished in the 4th Century CE, on the Vedic love story of king Pururavas and celestial nymph Urvashi...

    , with "Vikram" for "Pururavas", could be an indirect tribute to a patron possibly named Vikramāditya.
  • Kumār Gupta I was the son of Chandragupta II Vikramāditya. The title of Kālidāsa's epic poem, Kumārasambhava
    Kumarasambhava
    Kumārasambhava is a Sanskrit epic poem by Kālidāsa; the first eight cantos are accepted as his authorship...

    , about the begetting of Kartikeya, the god of war who was the son of Siva
    Shiva
    Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

     and Pārvati
    Parvati
    Parvati is a Hindu goddess. Parvati is Shakti, the wife of Shiva and the gentle aspect of Mahadevi, the Great Goddess...

    , could be an indirect tribute to either of these royal patrons.
  • The mention of Huns
    Huns
    The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

     in his epic poem, Raghuvaṃśa
    Raghuvamsa
    Raghuwamsa or Raghu race is a legendary lineage of warrior kings tracing its ancestry to the Hindu solar deity Surya. Kalidasa's famous work, Raghuvaṃśa depicts the legend of this race. The progenitor of the lineage was Raghu, son of the emperor Dileepa. Raghu was father of Aja, and thus...

    , could be a veiled reference to the victory over them in 455 of Kumāragupta's son and successor, Skandagupta
    Skandagupta
    Skandagupta was a Gupta Emperor of northern India. He is generally considered the last of the great Gupta Emperors.-Rule:Skandagupta's antecedents remain unclear. Later official genealogies omit his name, and even the inscriptions of his own age omit the name of his mother...

    . Alternatively, the campaign of Raghu
    Raghu
    The Great Emperor Raghu was a valorous king of the Ikshvaku dynasty. According to the Raghuvamsha, he was born to king Dilipa and his queen Sudakshina. His name in Sanskrit means the fast one, deriving from Raghu's chariot driving abilities. So celebrated were the exploits of Raghu, that his...

     in this poem may have been modeled on the celebrated campaigns of Chandragupta II Vikramāditya's father, Samudragupta
    Samudragupta
    Samudragupta , ruler of the Gupta Empire , and successor to Chandragupta I, is considered to be one of the greatest military geniuses in Indian history according to Historian V. A. Smith. His name is taken to be a title acquired by his conquests...

    .


M R Kale in the introduction of his translation of Kumarasambhava and Saradaranjan Ray in his introduction to the translation of Abhijnana Sakunthalam places the date of Kalidasa to be about 56 BC or earlier. The main evidence comes from the works of philosopher-poet Aśvaghoṣa
Asvaghosa
' was an Indian philosopher-poet, born in Saketa in northern India to a Brahmin family. He is believed to have been the first Sanskrit dramatist, and is considered the greatest Indian poet prior to Kālidāsa. He was the most famous in a group of Buddhist court writers, whose epics rivaled the...

 whose date is in 1st century AD. Aśvaghoṣa has used many passages similar to that of Kalidasa. Since Kalidasa was an original poet, it is extremely unlikely that he borrowed from Asvaghosha being a philosopher
and mostly considered an artificial poet, and with a much more chance would have done so. Kale also adds that some aspects of language used by Asvaghosa seems to be later and the similarities in the styles suggest that their dates are not widely separated. Kale also give many additional evidences that could be found internally from Kalidasa's works to substantiate his claims. These claim,s together with the facts of king Vikrama, Kalidasa's love and knowledge of the city of Ujjain, suggests that Kalidasa was probably with Vikramaditya of 1st century BCE.

Location


Scholars have speculated that Kālidāsa may have lived either near the Himalayas
Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

 or in the vicinity of Ujjain
Ujjain
Ujjain , is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River , today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division.In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini...

 or in Kalinga
Kalinga (India)
Kalinga was an early state in central-eastern India, which comprised most of the modern state of Orissa/Utkal , as well as the Andhra region of the bordering state of Andhra Pradesh. It was a rich and fertile land that extended from the river Damodar/Ganges to Godavari and from Bay of Bengal to...

. The three speculations are based respectively on Kālidāsa's detailed description of the Himalayas in his Kumārasambhava
Kumarasambhava
Kumārasambhava is a Sanskrit epic poem by Kālidāsa; the first eight cantos are accepted as his authorship...

, the display of his love for Ujjain
Ujjain
Ujjain , is an ancient city of Malwa region in central India, on the eastern bank of the Kshipra River , today part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is the administrative centre of Ujjain District and Ujjain Division.In ancient times the city was called Ujjayini...

 in Meghadūta
Meghaduta
Meghadūta is a lyric poem written by Kālidāsa, considered to be one of the greatest Sanskrit poets.A short poem of 111 stanzas, it is one of Kālidāsa's most famous works...

and his highly eulogistic quotes for Kalingan emperor Hemāngada in Raghuvaṃśa
Raghuvamsa
Raghuwamsa or Raghu race is a legendary lineage of warrior kings tracing its ancestry to the Hindu solar deity Surya. Kalidasa's famous work, Raghuvaṃśa depicts the legend of this race. The progenitor of the lineage was Raghu, son of the emperor Dileepa. Raghu was father of Aja, and thus...

(sixth sarga).

Plays


Kālidāsa wrote three plays. Among them, Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānashākuntala or Abhijñānaśākuntalam) , is a well-known Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. Its date is uncertain, but Kalidasa is often placed in the period between the 1st century BCE and 4th century CE....

("Of Shakuntala recognised by a token") is generally regarded as a masterpiece. It was among the first Sanskrit works to be translated into English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

, and has since been translated into many languages.

  • Mālavikāgnimitram
    Malavikagnimitram
    Mālavikāgnimitram is a Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. It is his first play.The play tells the story of the love of King Agnimitra, the Shunga king of Vidisha , for the beautiful hand-maiden of his chief queen. He falls in love with the picture of an exiled servant girl named Mālavikā...

    ("Mālavikā and Agnimitra") tells the story of King Agnimitra
    Agnimitra
    Agnimitra was the second King of the Sunga Dynasty of northern India. He succeeded his father, Pusyamitra Sunga, in 149 BCE...

    , who falls in love with the picture of an exiled servant girl named Mālavikā. When the queen discovers her husband's passion for this girl, she becomes infuriated and has Mālavikā imprisoned, but as fate would have it, Mālavikā is in fact a true-born princess, thus legitimizing the affair.

  • Abhijñānaśākuntalam
    Abhijñānaśākuntalam
    Abhijñānashākuntala or Abhijñānaśākuntalam) , is a well-known Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. Its date is uncertain, but Kalidasa is often placed in the period between the 1st century BCE and 4th century CE....

    ("Of Shakuntala recognised by a token") tells the story of King Dushyanta
    Dushyanta
    Dushyant or Dushyanta was a great king in classical Indian literature and mythology. He is the husband of Shakuntala and the father of the Emperor Bharatha. He appears in the Mahabarata and in Kalidasa's play The Recognition of Sakuntala .-Historical king:According to the Mahābhārata, Dushyanta is...

     who, while on a hunting trip, meets Shakuntalā
    Shakuntala
    In Hindu mythology Shakuntala is the wife of Dushyanta and the mother of Emperor Bharata. Her story is told in the Mahabharata and dramatized by Kalidasa in his play Abhijñānaśākuntalam .-Etymology:Rishi Kanva found her in forest as a baby surrounded by Shakunta birds...

    , the adopted daughter of a sage, and marries her. A mishap befalls them when he is summoned back to court: Shakuntala, pregnant with their child, inadvertently offends a visiting sage
    Wise old man
    The wise old man is an archetype as described by Carl Jung, as well as a classic literary figure, and may be seen as a stock character...

     and incurs a curse, by which Dushyanta will forget her completely until he sees the ring he has left with her. On her trip to Dushyanta's court in an advanced state of pregnancy
    Pregnancy
    Pregnancy refers to the fertilization and development of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, in a woman's uterus. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations, as in the case of twins or triplets...

    , she loses the ring, and has to come away unrecognized. The ring is found by a fisherman who recognizes the royal seal and returns it to Dushyanta, who regains his memory of Shakuntala and sets out to find her. After more travels, they are finally reunited.

  • Vikramōrvaśīyam
    Vikramorvasiyam
    Vikramōrvaśīyam is a Sanskrit play by medieval Indian poet Kalidasa who fluorished in the 4th Century CE, on the Vedic love story of king Pururavas and celestial nymph Urvashi...

    ("Pertaining to Vikrama and Urvashi") tells the story of mortal King Pururavas
    Pururavas
    Pururavas was the first king of the Aila dynasty or the Somavamsha. According to the Vedas, he is a mythological entity associated with the Surya and Usha , and is believed to resided in the middle region of the cosmos. The Rig Veda states that he was a son of Ila and was a pious king...

     and celestial nymph Urvashi who fall in love. As an immortal, she has to return to the heavens, where an unfortunate accident causes her to be sent back to the earth as a mortal with the curse that she will die (and thus return to heaven) the moment her lover lays his eyes on the child which she will bear him. After a series of mishaps, including Urvashi's temporary transformation into a vine, the curse is lifted, and the lovers are allowed to remain together on the earth.

Poetry


Kālidāsa is the author of two epic poems
Indian epic poetry
Indian epic poetry is the epic poetry written in the Indian subcontinent, traditionally called Kavya . The Ramayana and Mahabharata, originally composed in Sanskrit and translated thereafter into many other Indian languages, are some of the oldest surviving epic poems on earth and form part of...

, Raghuvaṃśa
Raghuvamsa
Raghuwamsa or Raghu race is a legendary lineage of warrior kings tracing its ancestry to the Hindu solar deity Surya. Kalidasa's famous work, Raghuvaṃśa depicts the legend of this race. The progenitor of the lineage was Raghu, son of the emperor Dileepa. Raghu was father of Aja, and thus...

("Dynasty of Raghu") and Kumārasambhava
Kumarasambhava
Kumārasambhava is a Sanskrit epic poem by Kālidāsa; the first eight cantos are accepted as his authorship...

("Birth of Kumāra"). Among his lyric poems are Meghadūta
Meghaduta
Meghadūta is a lyric poem written by Kālidāsa, considered to be one of the greatest Sanskrit poets.A short poem of 111 stanzas, it is one of Kālidāsa's most famous works...

("Cloud Messenger") and Ṛtusaṃhāra ("The Exposition on the Seasons").
  • Raghuvaṃśa
    Raghuvamsa
    Raghuwamsa or Raghu race is a legendary lineage of warrior kings tracing its ancestry to the Hindu solar deity Surya. Kalidasa's famous work, Raghuvaṃśa depicts the legend of this race. The progenitor of the lineage was Raghu, son of the emperor Dileepa. Raghu was father of Aja, and thus...

    is an epic poem about the kings of the Raghu dynasty.

  • Kumārasambhava
    Kumarasambhava
    Kumārasambhava is a Sanskrit epic poem by Kālidāsa; the first eight cantos are accepted as his authorship...

    is an epic poem which narrates the birth of Kartikeya, Parvati being sent by her father to serve the meditating Siva, Manmadha attempting to create love in Siva for Parvati, Siva destroying Manmadha in his fury, Parvati's penance for Siva, Siva agreeing to marry Parvati, Siva and Parvati living in marital bliss, etc.

  • Ṛtusaṃhāra describes the six seasons by narrating the experiences of two lovers in each of the seasons.

  • Meghadūta
    Meghadūta
    Meghadūta is a lyric poem written by Kālidāsa, considered to be one of the greatest Sanskrit poets.A short poem of 111 stanzas, it is one of Kālidāsa's most famous works...

    or Meghasāndesa is the story of a Yaksha
    Yaksha
    Yaksha is the name of a broad class of nature-spirits, usually benevolent, who are caretakers of the natural treasures hidden in the earth and tree roots. They appear in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist mythology. The feminine form of the word is ' or Yakshini .In Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist mythology,...

     trying to send a message to his lover through a cloud. Kalidasa set this poem to the 'mandākrānta' meter known for its lyrical sweetness. It is one of Kalidasa's most popular poems and numerous commentaries on the work have been written.

Style


Kālidāsa's poetry is celebrated for its beautiful imagery and use of similes. The following are some specimen verses from his works.

One celebrated example occurs in the Kumārasambhava
Kumarasambhava
Kumārasambhava is a Sanskrit epic poem by Kālidāsa; the first eight cantos are accepted as his authorship...

. Umā (Parvati) has been meditating even throughout the summer, and as the monsoon arrives, the first raindrop falls on her:


nikāmataptā vividhena vahninā
nabhaścareṇendhanasaṃbhṛtena ca ।
tapātyaye vāribhir ukṣitā navair
bhuvā sahoṣmāṇam amuñcad ūrdhvagam ॥

sthitāḥ kṣaṇaṃ pakṣmasu tāḍitādharāḥ
payodharotsedhanipātacūrṇitāḥ ।
valīṣu tasyāḥ skhalitāḥ prapedire
cireṇa nābhiṃ prathamodabindavaḥ ॥
Kumārasambhava
Kumarasambhava
Kumārasambhava is a Sanskrit epic poem by Kālidāsa; the first eight cantos are accepted as his authorship...

 5.23–24


Still sat Umā though scorched by various flame
Of solar fire and fires of kindled birth,
Until at summer's end the waters came.
Steam rose from her body as it rose from earth.

With momentary pause the first drops rest
Upon her lash then strike her nether lip,
Fracture upon the highland of her breast,
Across the ladder of her waist then trip
And slowly at her navel come to rest.
— translation by Ingalls
Daniel H. H. Ingalls, Sr.
Daniel Henry Holmes Ingalls, Sr. was the Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University. Born and raised in New York City, Ingalls received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard before serving as an officer in the US Army in World War II. After the war, Ingalls returned to Harvard as...


The beauty of this verse is held to result from "the association through suggestion of numerous harmonious ideas". Firstly (as described in Mallinatha's commentary), the description suggests signs of her physical beauty: long eyelashes, pouting lower lip, hard breasts large enough to touch each other, deep navel, and so on. Secondly (as described in Appayya Dikshita's commentary), it suggests her pose as a perfect yoginī: her motionlessness through pain and pleasure, her posture, and so on. Finally, and more subtly, in comparing the mother goddess to the mother earth, and the rain coursing down her as it courses over the surface of the earth, it suggests earthly fertility. Thus the verse harmoniously brings to mind beauty, self-restraint, and fertility.

In another work, King Aja grieves over the death of Indumati and is consoled by a hermit:
na pṛthagjanavac chuco vaśaṃ vaśinām uttama gantum arhasi ।

drumasānumatāṃ kim antaraṃ yadi vāyau dvitaye 'pi te calāḥ ॥
Raghuvaṃśa
Raghuvamsa
Raghuwamsa or Raghu race is a legendary lineage of warrior kings tracing its ancestry to the Hindu solar deity Surya. Kalidasa's famous work, Raghuvaṃśa depicts the legend of this race. The progenitor of the lineage was Raghu, son of the emperor Dileepa. Raghu was father of Aja, and thus...

 8.90

O king! you are the finest among men with self-control.
It is not fit of you to be struck by sorrow like the ordinary folk.
If a great wind can move a tree and a mountain equally, how is the mountain better?
Dushyanta describes Shakuntala to his friend:

anāghrātaṃ puṣpaṃ kisalayam alūnaṃ kara-ruhair

anāviddhaṃ ratnaṃ madhu navam anāsvādita-rasam।

akhaṇḍaṃ puṣyānāṃ phalam iva ca tad-rūpam anaghaṃ

na jāne bhoktāraṃ kam iha samupasthāsyati vidhiḥ॥
Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānashākuntala or Abhijñānaśākuntalam) , is a well-known Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. Its date is uncertain, but Kalidasa is often placed in the period between the 1st century BCE and 4th century CE....

 2.10

She seems a flower whose fragrance none has tasted,

A gem uncut by workman's tool,

A branch no desecrating hands have wasted,

Fresh honey, beautifully cool.



No man on earth deserves to taste her beauty,

Her blameless loveliness and worth,

Unless he has fulfilled man's perfect duty—

And is there such a one on earth?
— translation by Arthur W. Ryder
Arthur W. Ryder
Arthur William Ryder was a professor of Sanskrit at the University of California, Berkeley. He is best known for translating a number of Sanskrit works into English, including the Panchatantra and the Bhagavad Gita. In the words of G. R. Noyes,-Life:Ryder was born on March 8, 1877 at Oberlin, Ohio...


At Indumati's swayamvara
Swayamvara
Swayamvara , in ancient India, was a practice of choosing a husband, from among a list of suitors, by a girl of marriageable age. Swayam in Sanskrit means self and vara means choice or desire ....

, princes are downcast as she passes by without showing interest:

saṃcāriṇī dīpaśikheva rātrau

yaṃ yaṃ vyatīyāya patiṃvarā sā।

narendramārgāṭṭa iva prapede

vivarṇabhāvaṃ sa sa bhūmipālaḥ ॥
Raghuvaṃśa
Raghuvamsa
Raghuwamsa or Raghu race is a legendary lineage of warrior kings tracing its ancestry to the Hindu solar deity Surya. Kalidasa's famous work, Raghuvaṃśa depicts the legend of this race. The progenitor of the lineage was Raghu, son of the emperor Dileepa. Raghu was father of Aja, and thus...

 6.67

As Indumati walked past each king and went to the next king
(in a ceremony of choosing her husband),
the king's face would turn bright and then pale.
It was like watching a line of houses in the night as a dazzling lamp passed by.
— literal translation


And every prince rejected while she sought

A husband, darkly frowned, as turrets, bright

One moment with the flame from torches caught,

Frown gloomily again and sink in night.
—Ryder

Dasharatha's hunt:

api turagasamīpād utpatantaṃ mayūraṃ

na sa rucirakalāpaṃ bāṇalakṣyī cakāra।

sapadi gatamanaskaś citramālyānukīrṇe

rativigalitabandhe keśapāśe priyāyāḥ॥
Raghuvaṃśa
Raghuvamsa
Raghuwamsa or Raghu race is a legendary lineage of warrior kings tracing its ancestry to the Hindu solar deity Surya. Kalidasa's famous work, Raghuvaṃśa depicts the legend of this race. The progenitor of the lineage was Raghu, son of the emperor Dileepa. Raghu was father of Aja, and thus...

 9.67

Dasaratha saw many beasts as he was hunting.
Although he saw a peacock fly very close to his chariot, he did not shoot his arrow.
For, as the peacock spread its tail feathers before him, it reminded him of his wife's
hair adorned with flowers of different kinds and how it would become
disarranged during their lovemaking.
Rama's coronation is announced:

sā paurān paurakāntasya rāmasyābhyudayaśrutiḥ।

pratyekaṃ hlādayāṃ cakre kulyevodyānapādapān॥
Raghuvaṃśa
Raghuvamsa
Raghuwamsa or Raghu race is a legendary lineage of warrior kings tracing its ancestry to the Hindu solar deity Surya. Kalidasa's famous work, Raghuvaṃśa depicts the legend of this race. The progenitor of the lineage was Raghu, son of the emperor Dileepa. Raghu was father of Aja, and thus...

 2.13

The news of the beloved Rama being crowned as king gave special joy to every citizen,
like a stream that wets every tree in a garden.
The loveliest verses of Kalidasa, are found in Meghadūta
Meghadūta
Meghadūta is a lyric poem written by Kālidāsa, considered to be one of the greatest Sanskrit poets.A short poem of 111 stanzas, it is one of Kālidāsa's most famous works...

, which are given as follows -
  • ॥twāmālikhyat pranayakŭpitā dhāturāgai shilāyāha।
    mātmānm te charanapatitam yavdichhami kartum।
    astraistravanmuhu upchitairdrushtirālŭpyate me।
    krurastasminnapi na sahate sangamam naŭ krutantāh॥


- Meaning: when I try to draw your picture and show in it that I am bowing at your feet, with a 'kawa-a type of chalk', on the rock; due to emotional outbreak, my eyes get wet. The 'Krutāntā or Yama
Yama
Yama , also known as Yamarāja in India and Nepal, Shinje in Tibet, Yanluowang or simply Yan in China, Yeomla Daewang in South Korea and Enma Dai-Ō in Japan, is the lord of death, in Hinduism and then adopted into Buddhism and then further into Chinese mythology and Japanese mythology. First...

' himself does not wish to have our meet in the picture itself...

Similarly the beauty-symbols of a woman has been so beautifully shown in a verse of Kalidasa's Meghadūta
Meghadūta
Meghadūta is a lyric poem written by Kālidāsa, considered to be one of the greatest Sanskrit poets.A short poem of 111 stanzas, it is one of Kālidāsa's most famous works...

 as follows -
  • ॥tanvi shyamā shikhari dashanā pakwabimbādharóshthi।
    madhye kshāmā chakithariniprekshanā nimnanābhi।
    shronibhārāt alasagamanā stoknamrā stanābhyām।
    yā tatrasyatdyŭvati vishaye srushtirādyev dhatooh॥


-Meaning: This verse is as such that its meaning can only be understood word-wise, given as follows -
  1. tanvi - slim
  2. shyamā - 'aprasuta bhavet shyama, tanvi ch navayauvana - comment' - a grownup woman who has not yet enjoyed the sex with some male and thus has not yet any experience of pregnancy and the like...
  3. shikhari dashanā - a woman having, well arranged clean white teeth
  4. pakwabimbādharóshthi - having the color of her lips like the color of a morning reddish Sun
  5. kshāmā - having her waist so short
  6. chakithariniprekshanā - having the glimpse of a frightened deer
  7. nimnanābhi - having a deep navel
  8. shronibhārāt alasagamanā - a slow walker, due to heavy hips
  9. stoknamrā stanābhyām - slightly bent forward, due to good enough weight of her grown up breasts
  10. and for the last line the meaning is: such a woman is the idol of beauty for any woman.

Kālidāsa in later culture


Many scholars have written commentaries on the works of Kālidāsa. Among the most studied commentaries are those by Kolāchala Mallinātha Suri
Mallinatha Suri
Mallinātha Sūri was an eminent critic, known for his commentaries on five mahakavyas of Sanskrit. During his times, he is said to have received the titles of Mahamahopadyaya and Vyakhyana Cakravarti. He lived during the reigns of Racakonda king Singabhupala and Vijayanagara king Deva Raya I...

, which were written in the 15th century during the reign of the Vijayanagar
Vijayanagara Empire
The Vijayanagara Empire , referred as the Kingdom of Bisnaga by the Portuguese, was an empire based in South Indian in the Deccan Plateau region. It was established in 1336 by Harihara I and his brother Bukka Raya I of the Yadava lineage. The empire rose to prominence as a culmination of attempts...

 king, Deva Rāya II
Deva Raya II
Deva Raya II was an emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire from the Sangama Dynasty. Perhaps the greatest of the Sangama dynasty rulers, he patronised some of the famous Kannada and Telugu poets of the time...

. The earliest surviving commentaries appear to be those of the 10th-century Kashmirian scholar Vallabhadeva. Eminent Sanskrit poets like Bāṇabhaṭṭa
Banabhatta
Bāṇabhaṭṭa , also known as Bāṇa, was a Sanskrit scholar and poet of India. He was the Asthana Kavi in the court of King Harshavardhana, who reigned in the years c. 606–647 CE in north India...

, Jayadeva
Jayadeva
Jayadeva was a Sanskrit poet circa 1200 AD. He is most known for his composition, the epic poem Gita Govinda, which depicts the divine love of Krishna-an avatar of Vishnu and his consort, Radha, and it is mentioned that Radha is greater than Hari, and is considered an important text in the...

 and Rajasekhara
Rajasekhara
Rajashekhara was an eminent Sanskrit poet, dramatist and critic. He was court poet of the Gurjara Pratiharas.He wrote Kavyamimamsa between 880 and 920 CE. The work is essentially a practical guide for poets that explains the elements and composition of a good poem. The fame of Rajashekhara...

 have lavished praise on Kālidāsa in their tributes. A well-known Sanskrit verse ("Upamā Kālidāsasya…") praises his skill at upamā, or simile
Simile
A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two different things, usually by employing the words "like", "as". Even though both similes and metaphors are forms of comparison, similes indirectly compare the two ideas and allow them to remain distinct in spite of their similarities, whereas...

s. Anandavardhana
Anandavardhana
Anandavardhana was the author of Dhvanyaloka, a work articulating the philosophy of "aesthetic suggestion". The philosopher Abhinavagupta wrote an important commentary on it.Anandavardhana is credited with creating the dhvani theory...

, a highly revered critic, considered Kālidāsa to be one of the greatest Sanskrit poets ever. Of the hundreds of pre-modern Sanskrit commentaries on Kālidāsa's works, only a fraction have been contemporarily published. Such commentaries show signs of Kālidāsa's poetry being changed from its original state through centuries of manual copying, and possibly through competing oral traditions which ran alongside the written tradition.

Kālidāsa's Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānaśākuntalam
Abhijñānashākuntala or Abhijñānaśākuntalam) , is a well-known Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. Its date is uncertain, but Kalidasa is often placed in the period between the 1st century BCE and 4th century CE....

was one of the first works of Indian literature to become known in Europe. It was first translated to English and then from English to German, where it was received with wonder and fascination by a group of eminent poets, which included Herder
Johann Gottfried Herder
Johann Gottfried von Herder was a German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic. He is associated with the periods of Enlightenment, Sturm und Drang, and Weimar Classicism.-Biography:...

 and Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

.








Kālidāsa's work continued to evoke inspiration among the artistic circles of Europe during the late 19th century and early 20th century, as evidenced by Camille Claudel
Camille Claudel
Camille Claudel was a French sculptor and graphic artist. She was the elder sister of the poet and diplomat Paul Claudel.- Early years :...

's sculpture Shakuntala.

Koodiyattam
Koodiyattam
Koodiyattam or Kutiyattam is a form of Sanskrit theatre traditionally performed in the state of Kerala, India. Performed in the Sanskrit language in Hindu temples, it is believed to be 2,000 years old...

 artist and Natya shastra
Natya Shastra
The Natya Shastra is an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music. It was written during the period between 200 BC and 200 AD in classical India and is traditionally attributed to the Sage Bharata.The Natya Shastra is incredibly wide in its scope...

 scholar Māni Mādhava Chākyār
Mani Madhava Chakyar
Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar was a celebrated master performance artist and Sanskrit scholar from Kerala, South India, considered to be the greatest Chakyar Koothu and Koodiyattam artist and authority of modern times...

 (1899–1990) choreographed and performed popular Kālidāsā plays including Abhijñānaśākuntala, Vikramorvaśīya and Mālavikāgnimitra.

Mohan Rakesh
Mohan Rakesh
Mohan Rakesh was one of the pioneers of the Nai Kahani literary movement of the Hindi literature in the 1950s. He wrote the first modern Hindi play, Ashadh Ka Ek Din , which won a competition organized by the Sangeet Natak Akademi...

's play in Hindi, Āshad ka ek din (1958), tries to capture the conflict between the ethereal beauty repeatedly portrayed in Kālidāsa's works and the harsh realities of his time.

The Kannada
Kannada language
Kannada or , is a language spoken in India predominantly in the state of Karnataka. Kannada, whose native speakers are called Kannadigas and number roughly 50 million, is one of the 30 most spoken languages in the world...

 films namely Mahakavi Kalidasa
Mahakavi Kalidasa
Mahakavi Kalidasa is a Kannada movie made in 1955 by K. R. Seetarama with Kalidasa role played by then famous singer of Karnataka Honnappa Bhagavatar of Bangalore. Honnappa Bagavatar introduced B. Sarojadevi to the world of film. B. Sarojadevi later became a very well known actress in Kannada,...

(1955), featuring Honnappa Bagavatar, B. Sarojadevi and later Kaviratna Kalidasa
Kaviratna Kalidasa
Released in 1983, Kaviratna Kalidasa is one of the all-time top money-grossing films in the history of Kannada Movies. Dr Rajkumar, a prominent actor in the Kannada film industry starred in the film, portraying the role of Kalidasa, along with Jaya Pradha in the role of Vidyadhare and Srinivasa...

(1983), featuring Rajkumar, were made. V. Shantaram
V. Shantaram
V. Shantaram is a renowned Indian filmmaker, film producer and actor. He is most known for his films like Dr...

 made the Hindi movie Stree (1961) based on Kālidāsa's Shakuntala
Shakuntala
In Hindu mythology Shakuntala is the wife of Dushyanta and the mother of Emperor Bharata. Her story is told in the Mahabharata and dramatized by Kalidasa in his play Abhijñānaśākuntalam .-Etymology:Rishi Kanva found her in forest as a baby surrounded by Shakunta birds...

. R.R. Chandran made the Tamil movie Mahakavi Kalidas (1966) based on Kālidāsa's life. Chevalier
Chevalier
Chevalier is a class of membership in a French Order of Chivalry or order of merit.* a member of the Ordre National du Mérite* a rank in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres* a rank in the Legion d'honneur* a member of the Order of Palmes académiques...

 Nadigar Thilagam Sivaji Ganesan
Sivaji Ganesan
Viluppuram Chinnaiahpillai Ganesan Manrayar , commonly known by his stage name Sivaji Ganesan , was an Indian stage and film actor active during the latter half of the 20th century. He is one of the most respected film actors in India. He is well known for his versatility and acting skills with...

 played the part of the poet himself.

Surendra Verma
Surendra Verma
Surendra Verma is a leading Hindi litterateur and playwright. He started out as a playwright, when his play Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pahli Kiran Tak , became quite well known, has been translated into six Indian languages. Has had a long association with the National School of Drama...

's Hindi play Athavan Sarga, published in 1976, is based on the legend that Kālidāsa could not complete his epic Kumārasambhava because he was cursed by the goddess Pārvati, for obscene descriptions of her conjugal life with Lord Shiva in the eighth canto. The play depicts Kālidāsa as a court poet of Chandragupta who faces a trial on the insistence of a priest and some other moralists of his time.

Asti Kashchid Vagarthiyam is a five act Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 play written by Krishna Kumar in 1984. The story is a variation of the popular legend that Kālidāsa was mentally challenged at one time and that his wife was responsible for his transformation. Kālidāsā, a mentally challenged shepard, is married to Vidyottamā, a learned princess, through a conspiracy. On discovering that she has been tricked, Vidyottamā banishes Kālidāsa asking him to acquire scholarship and fame if he desires to continue their relationship. She further stipulates that on his return he will have to answer the question, Asti Kashchid Vāgārthah" ("Is there anything special in expression?"), to her satisfaction. In due course, Kālidāsa attains knowledge and fame as a poet. Kālidāsa begins Kumārsambhava, Raghuvaṃśa and Meghaduta with the words Asti ("there is"), Kashchit ("something") and Vāk ("speech.")

Dr. Bishnupada Bhattacharya's "Kalidas o Robindronath" is a comparative study of Kalidasa and the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore , sobriquet Gurudev, was a Bengali polymath who reshaped his region's literature and music. Author of Gitanjali and its "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse", he became the first non-European Nobel laureate by earning the 1913 Prize in Literature...



Mahakavi Kalidasu
Mahakavi Kalidasu
Mahakavi Kalidasu is a 1960 Telugu Biographical film based on the life of the great Sanskrit poet Kalidas. It is directed by Kamalakara Kameshwara Rao. Akkineni Nageswara Rao played the role of Kalidas. Some poems of Kalidas including Shyamala dandakam by Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao is...

(Telugu, 1960) featuring Akkineni Nageswara Rao
Akkineni Nageswara Rao
Akkineni Nageswara Rao , also known as ANR, is a Telugu cinema actor from Gudivada, Andhra Pradesh. Nageswara Rao has worked in several genres of films in his 70-year acting career, including mythological, social, and drama films...

 were based on the Kālidāsa legendary life and work.

Further reading

  • K.D. Sethna. Problems of Ancient India, p. 79-120 (chapter: "The Time of Kalidasa"), 2000 New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. ISBN 81-7742-026-7 (about the dating of Kalidasa)

  • V. Venkatachalam
    V. Venkatachalam
    Padma Shri Vishwanathan Venkatachalam was an eminent Sanskrit scholar. He served as the vice-chancellor of Sampurnanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi, India for two terms...

    . Fresh light on Kalidasa's historical perspective, Kalidasa Special Number (X), The Vikram, 1967, pp. 130–140.

External links


  • Kalidasa: Translations of Shakuntala and Other Works by Arthur W. Ryder
    Arthur W. Ryder
    Arthur William Ryder was a professor of Sanskrit at the University of California, Berkeley. He is best known for translating a number of Sanskrit works into English, including the Panchatantra and the Bhagavad Gita. In the words of G. R. Noyes,-Life:Ryder was born on March 8, 1877 at Oberlin, Ohio...

  • Biography of Kalidasa
  • Clay Sanskrit Library publishes classical Indian literature, including the works of Kalidasa with Sanskrit facing-page text and translation. Also offers searchable corpus and downloadable materials.
  • Kalidasa at The Online Library of Liberty